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Conversations Underway on Higher Education Act Reauthorization
 
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 February 2019

Conversations on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) are in full swing. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), outlined his priorities for the HEA reauthorization in several high-profile events in Washington, DC throughout February.

In a talk at the American Enterprise Institute on February 4, he detailed three ideas for reauthorizing HEA: (1) simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, (2) a “new way” to pay back student loans through an income-based repayment model that would deduct loan payments from borrowers’ paychecks, and (3) accountability metrics for colleges and programs based on student loan repayment progress. (Additional details on the proposal are available in Inside Higher Ed).

Alexander has set an ambitious schedule for a Senate HEA bill, with expectations that the Senate HELP Committee would consider legislation this summer. Getting an HEA reauthorization bill passed is a priority for Alexander, who has announced his plans to retire from Congress at the end of his term next year.

Meanwhile, House Education and Labor Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) and ranking member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) announced their plans to hold several hearings on reauthorizing HEA. The committee will focus on the following five topics:

  1. The Cost of College: Student Centered Reforms to Bring Higher Education Within Reach
  2. Strengthening Accountability in Higher Education to Better Serve Students and Taxpayers
  3. The Cost of Non-Completion: Improving Student Outcomes in Higher Education
  4. Engines of Economic Mobility: The Critical Role of Community Colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Minority-Serving Institutions in Preparing Students for Success
  5. Innovation to Improve Equity: Exploring High-Quality Pathways to a College Degree

Scott and Foxx also are seeking input on research and evidence to inform the reauthorization process, which can be submitted to EdLaborHigherEd@mail.house.gov.

During the previous Congress, House Republicans on the committee had advanced the PROSPER Act, their HEA reauthorization bill, but failed to garner support for a full House vote after receiving opposition from much of the higher education community.

 
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